Special needs grad will get to walk across stage

11:08 PM, May 18, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Student given chance to walk

Michael Cooper, 19, of Carrollton
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CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. -- A Carrollton high school senior with cerebral palsy tells 11Alive he's been given a chance to walk across the graduation stage after initially being told he couldn't due to safety issues.

Michael Cooper usually uses a wheelchair, but has been practicing using a walker in therapy. Central High School made arrangement to have Michael get his degree in his wheel chair because they were concerned about his safety if he used a walker.

He told 11Alive News on Wednesday that he will be allowed to walk at graduation -- as long as his left hand, which has limited mobility due to his condition, works properly and he can operate his walker safely. "I can pretty much guarantee I'm going to walk because I'm going to do everything that I have to do to make it happen," he said.

On Wednesday morning Michael said he received a call from the high school telling him he was going to the University of West Georgia to practice with his walker. Graduation for Central High School is Saturday at 5:00 PM at UWG. "I went and they tested me and I did very, very well," Cooper said.

On Monday school officials told Cooper he couldn't walk at the graduation because they were concerned about his safety. "I do not feel that it's a safety issue at all because I have certified people walking next to me, and I've been practicing this for three years", Cooper said.

"I want people to see that yes, you may be in a wheel chair, but that's not the only way of getting around," he said. 

Cooper's grandmother Diane Parker, whom he lives with, said she never doubted what would happen. "I wasn't surprised at all," she said. "I knew it was going to happen."

Cooper said the school told him he will be tested before the graduation to see if he can use the walker. "I'm going to have to prove it at 3:30 PM on Saturday and a decision will be made if I'm walking or if I'm being pushed," he said.

Carroll County Schools said it has always been about Michael's safety. In a statement Wednesday they said "All along we have been very supportive of Michael and want him to accomplish his goals."

 

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